Sean McGrath, CTO, Propylon

Sean McGrath's Weblog.

Friday, May 13, 2005
    Holy freakin Firefox batman!
IBM backs Firefox in-house.

posted by Sean 5:57 AM
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    ERH tells it like it is
XML 1.1 and W3C XML Schema woes

posted by Sean 5:22 AM
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    Static typing exposed
Making code look wrong is an excellent article by Joel Spolksy that illustrates a really, really, really important point about data types in programming languages.

Having a compiler, or a naming convention, that keeps your ints from your floats from your strings is solving the wrong problem. The real problem is a different type of 'type', a type related to the problem domain such as Joel's 'unsafe string' example for Web apps.

I've always hated Hungarian notation as practiced in statically typed programming languages - mirroring the type system of the host programmming language - because it essentially doubled up (badly) a job that the compiler was doing anyhow.

Not only that, but both the compiler and notation were checking something which was basically the wrong problem. To use Joel's example, unsafe string encoding would go through clean as a whistle.

Simonyi's original concept as explained by Joel makes much more sense to me. The same (or maybe a different?) legion of programmers who interpreted 'type' at the wrong level for Hungarian Notation are now doing the same thing with XML. There is this overpowering urge to statically type the stuff. It leaves me baffled for the same reasons that Hungarian notation and static type-checking leave me baffled.

posted by Sean 12:32 AM
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Thursday, May 12, 2005
    Things on top of other things
I had reason to Google the word "offprint". And saw this.

And thus it came to pass that might abstraction begat relation begat social_relation begat communication begat expressive_style; style begat writing_style; literary_genre; genre begat prose begat nonfiction; nonfictional_prose begat article begat offprint, reprint, separate.

Right! Obvious classification really.

As we say in the old country - whatever yer havin' yerself.

This one is more of a giggle : Borges' Animals. When I first saw that list I was in convulsions by the time I got to number 12. You have been warned.

posted by Sean 10:51 AM
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    Where do all the triples go?
I'm not the worlds greatest fan of applying very general, very abstract models to day-to-day problems.

That does not mean I am not a fan of that bedrock of knowledge representation : the humble triple (for example: subject,predicate,object).

I found myself wondering where on earth all the triples are out there in the real world of day-to-day IT, as opposed to the perfect but more abstract worlds of RDF/Topic Maps/HyTime etc?

Then it hit me.

Spreadsheets:-) Think about it. Row 1 cells - subject. Col 1 cells predicate. Other cells: objects...


posted by Sean 3:31 AM
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Monday, May 09, 2005
    There are two types of dichotomies...
those that split the universe of discourse into two sub-classes, and those that do not.

Or, paraphrasing some loo-wall grafitti I remember from my days in Trinity College Dublin - I'd rather a dichotomy in front of me, that a frontal lobotomy.

These are by way of an almost content free introduction to this week's ITWorld article:
Books/chapters and directories/files - dichotomies considered harmful.

If this wasn't a blog entry I'd probably revise it and just cite the article, taking out that prelude that didn't quite work. But hey, this *is* a blog and so I get to publish things on a whim and then wish I hadn't immediately afterwards[tab][tab][tab][tab][enter]

posted by Sean 2:29 PM
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    Intermediation is the highest form of flattery
How to tell that you are big on the Web?

You are big on the Web IFF you are listed here.

posted by Sean 8:24 AM
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Sunday, May 08, 2005
    Average answers and open source

    "But ask a hundred people to answer a question or solve a problem, and the average answer will often be at least as good as the answer of the smartest member. With most things, the average is mediocrity. With decision making, its often excellence."
    -- James Surowiecki.

Hmmm. My mind immediately turns to Open Source and Linus's observation that given enough eyeballs, all bugs are shallow.

I'm not buying it without lots and lots of qualifications about the nature of the question/problem. Its early days, I'm only on page 23 of The Wisdom of Crowds. I'm looking forward to the rest.

posted by Sean 1:33 PM
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    The trouble with schemas
Rick on schemas : No-one enjoys floundering on a [non-interoperable] substrate.

Amen to that.

posted by Sean 5:33 AM
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